Today, in order to ready the United States for a future in which artificial intelligence (AI) plays a growing role, the White House released a report on Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy. This report follows up on the Administration’s previous report, Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence, which was released in October 2016, and which recommended that the White House publish a report on the economic impacts of artificial intelligence by the end of 2016.
Accelerating AI capabilities will enable automation of some tasks that have long required human labor. These transformations will open up new opportunities for individuals, the economy, and society, but they will also disrupt the current livelihoods of millions of Americans. The new report examines the expected impact of AI-driven automation on the economy, and describes broad strategies that could increase the benefits of AI and mitigate its costs.
AI-driven automation will transform the economy over the coming years and decades. The challenge for policymakers will be to update, strengthen, and adapt policies to respond to the economic effects of AI.
Although it is difficult to predict these economic effects precisely, the report suggests that policymakers should prepare for five primary economic effects:
- Positive contributions to aggregate productivity growth;
- Changes in the skills demanded by the job market, including greater demand for higher-level technical skills;
- Uneven distribution of impact, across sectors, wage levels, education levels, job types, and locations;
- Churning of the job market as some jobs disappear while others are created; and
- The loss of jobs for some workers in the short-run, and possibly longer depending on policy responses.
Because the effects of AI-driven automation will be felt across the whole economy, and the areas of greatest impact may be difficult to predict, policy responses must be targeted to the whole economy. In addition, the economic effects of AI-driven automation may be difficult to separate from those of other factors such as other forms of technological change, globalization, reduction in market competition and worker bargaining power, and the effects of past public policy choices. Even if it is not possible to determine how much of the current transformation of the economy is caused by each of these factors, the policy challenges raised by the disruptions remain, and require a broad policy response.
In the cases where it is possible to direct mitigations to particularly affected places and sectors, those approaches should be pursued. But more generally, the report suggests three broad strategies for addressing the impacts of AI-driven automation across the whole U.S. economy:
- Invest in and develop AI for its many benefits;
- Educate and train Americans for jobs of the future; and
- Aid workers in the transition and empower workers to ensure broadly shared growth.
Beyond this report, more work remains, to further explore the policy implications of AI. Most notably, AI creates important opportunities in cyberdefense, and can improve systems to detect fraudulent transactions and messages.